For Online: Coworking Space meets the demand of digital nomads and remote workers in a coworking space on the island of Koh Phangan – dubbed by.
At the end of April, Airbnb announced a “Live and Work Anywhere” initiative that allows its employees to work remotely. Earlier this week, he went further by sharing 20 destinations he intends to promote with special pages on his website as remote work hubs, with Thailand on the list. The company will partner with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to create a “Thailand Hub” page that introduces long-term accommodation, entry requirements and visa policies to users.
The remote work industry has seen explosive growth over the past decade. Even before Covid-19, at least 17% of the U.S. workforce worked full-time remotely, while many more expected flexible or part-time remote work as a perk.
Thailand has long been an attractive option for remote workers or entrepreneurs looking to expand businesses, thanks to its top-notch infrastructure, low costs, and world-class tourist destinations. In recent months, the country’s reputation as a remote work haven has been in the headlines. Late last month, Bangkok was ranked the second best city for digital nomads by Instant Group, while another survey – William Russell’s website, gave Koh Phangan the top spot for being the best place in the world for a workcation, according to its latest survey published on July 3.
Previously, without any clear visa category that allowed remote workers to stay in the country long-term, most relied on headache-inducing tourist or education visas. But in a bid to spur economic growth, the cabinet recently approved a new visa category known as the Long-Term Resident (LTR) visa program, effective from September 1 this year. It will grant remote workers and wealthy retirees the right to live in the country for 10 years and provide other immigration-related benefits, provided applicants meet certain conditions. But will it work as expected? While it’s commendable that the government has finally passed a new scheme for digital nomads after years of talks that came to nothing, it’s unlikely to attract the remote workers it hopes.
Remote workers must be able to prove a salary of at least US$80,000 (2.8 million baht) in the past two years. That’s quite high compared to the annual €8,460 (370,000 baht) that Portugal, a country with a similar cost of living to Thailand, requires under its D7 residency program. Costa Rica, another competing country, requires proof of a monthly income of US$3,000, or about 108,000 baht.
But beyond a high salary, the killer clause is the requirement that a remote employee’s company be publicly traded and publicly traded or be a private company with revenue of $150 million over the past three years.
Unfortunately, this will disqualify a sizable segment of remote workers who start or participate in venture capital-backed projects. This translates into lost opportunities for knowledge and technology transfer, job creation, and the potential for Thailand to become a technology hub.
As Thailand seeks to diversify its tourism industry, it must remember to stay grounded. All tourist hotspots have been hit hard by the pandemic and most of these countries are trying to pivot and capitalize on the remote working trend. To ensure that it is able to capture a share of this market, the government must understand the market. Otherwise, countries that offer better conditions like Bali’s plan to introduce a nomad visa that allows remote workers to live on the island tax-free will come out on top.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent the Bangkok Post’s thoughts on current issues and situations.
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